Off The Post has been watching the European club game since the mid-90s, back when the likes of Eric Cantona and Roy Keane were delivering titles for Manchester United, Italy's AC Milan was dominating Serie A (and indeed, Europe), and the world was getting ready for the first -- and so far only -- ever World Cup finals on U.S. soil.
Ever since that beginning, OTP remembers hearing countless (mostly British) commentators and TV pundits go on and on about the glorious history of a certain English club team from Liverpool. Of course, most people (in the U.S. anyway) associate the city as being the birthplace of the Beatles, but soccer-people have been conditioned to think of Liverpool FC and its stadium, Anfield, as being the scene of where something magnificent took place.
Nowadays, younger generations are being conditioned on the (arguably more) glorious reign of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, but in OTP’s day, Liverpool was the club everyone spoke about, and even if you hated its guts, you still had respect for the sheer volume of trophies the team brought home in the 70s and 80s.
Well, 25+ years later, all that is becoming ancient history.
To be fair, Liverpool has had some good seasons since its 70s and 80s heyday: notably 2000-01, when it won a treble of the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup (now called the Europa League), and 2004-05, the year in which captain Steven Gerrard lifted the club’s first and only UEFA Champions League title (Note: it won the European Cup, the competition’s former iteration, four times previous to that). However, since, there’s been one just a single FA Cup (2006) and League Cup (2012) triumph, but that’s it.
Which brings us to today’s consideration point: Liverpool, one of Europe’s storied clubs, is about to finish yet another season without a trophy. And, for the third year running, Brendan Rodgers remains head coach.
Though Rodgers & Company reached two semifinals this campaign (the League Cup and FA Cup), LFC under-performed badly in the two most important competitions: the UEFA Champions League, where it failed to make it out of the group stage, and the Premier League, which it was never really in the running for thanks to a poor first half of the season.
As Rodgers said last week: Losing “is all part of the journey of being a winner.” The Northern Irishman, speaking ahead of Sunday’s 2-1 FA Cup semifinal loss against Aston Villa at Wembley, used the quote in reference to the 13-year odyssey of professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who finally won the Masters in 2004.
It’s hard to imagine Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho or United’s Louis van Gaal saying something like that, isn’t it? And what does that statement mean, exactly? That it’s OK to lose as long as you win something eventually? Or, rather, is it more in reference to looking back on one’s career and how losing made you stronger? Either way, the statement implies having won something, or winning something in the end, a feat Liverpool has yet to achieve under Rodgers.
And by the looks of things, the former Swansea boss will fail to deliver on each of his three stated aims at the beginning of the season: silverware, progress to the UCL round of 16 (both not happening), and a top four finish in the league (the Reds are currently fifth, seven points behind Man City).
At most big clubs, failure to achieve at least one of those three is grounds for termination.
Moreover, after three years at the helm, Liverpool seems to be declining under Rodgers. And while some would argue that he deserves an asterisk not only for that stellar second season but also for the subsequent departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona last summer, let’s not forget that Rodgers didn’t sign Suarez (Kenny Dalglish did), although he does deserve credit for getting another season out of the Uruguayan when he preferred to leave for Arsenal.
But Rodgers spent the Suarez money poorly: the big-money signings of Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli have been particularly disappointing. In fact, looking back at Rodgers’ record across six transfer windows, not one of the 25 players he signed has shined consistently, although Phillippe Coutinho, who is nominated for PFA Player and Young Player of the Year this season, has been terrific in 2015, and Daniel Sturridge has been in generally great form when fully fit.
For a club that aims to be back at the top amongst the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea, failure to win the league since 1989-90 simply isn’t good enough. If owner Fenway Sports Group wants LFC to play with the big boys, then it should let Brendan Rodgers go. At 42, he may be a young, promising manager, but he has certainly made mistakes in his three years at Anfield, mistakes which most top club managers would have already paid the price for.